Paul Rudd, who dated Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, married Lisa Kudrow’s Phoebe in Friends and enjoyed a ‘bromance’ with Jason Segel in I Love You, Man, seems to be experiencing some sort of existential crisis.
“You get to a point in your life where not everything’s ahead of you and certain questions have been answered,” says the comedy star in surprisingly serious mode.
“There does seem to be a point when you feel you did everything you were supposed to do and now what? Is this it? How am I not fulfilled in the way I imagined? Why am I so miserable?”
The sombre speech is a little disconcerting but then his mouth breaks into a wide, warm grin. Rudd, it seems, isn’t only deadpan on screen. He may not be feeling morose about middle age but it would be surprising if his latest movie hasn’t caused him to pause and take stock of his life in some way.
Called This Is 40, the comedy’s the latest project from Judd Apatow, who’s either written, produced or directed (and in some cases all three) the likes of The 40 Year Old Virgin, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Bridesmaids and the TV phenomenon Girls.
A semi-sequel, This Is 40 picks up five years after the events of (another Apatow movie) Knocked Up but this time we’re checking-in with that film’s supporting characters Pete and Debbie, played by Rudd and Apatow’s wife Leslie Mann, as they approach 40 and a milestone meltdown.
“It was great to play the character again, I would never have guessed that was going to happen,” says Rudd, a boyish-looking 43-year-old.
After years of marriage, Pete now finds himself outnumbered by females (his two daughters are played by Apatow and Mann’s own children Maude and Iris who reprise their roles from Knocked Up), constantly sparring with Debbie and struggling to keep his record company afloat.
“For the first time in his life, Pete isn’t sure what music he likes, he doesn’t know which acts are talented or who’s good. That was identifiable for me because it reveals a lot about his state of mind,” Rudd explains. “As we get older, and become either less interested or unable to stay hip anymore, it’s easy to question your identity. What always seemed like terra firma becomes shaky.”
Rudd, who’s worked with Apatow on numerous projects, says he feels a kinship with the director and they’ll often talk about their personal lives in relation to the characters he’s playing in Apatow’s movies.
“I trust him implicitly and feel confident in his approach,” he says.
Rudd, along with his wife Julie and their two children, Jack and Darby, has also spent a lot of time hanging out with the Apatow clan off set too.
“We’ve already established this dynamic. There’s a real familiarity there and I like working with them,” says Rudd.
And far from breed contempt, that familiarity’s only served to evoke a genuine feeling of intimacy in the movie, be it between the parents and children or between Debbie and Pete, in all its blissful and banal glory.
Take the scene in which Pete, naked from the waist down and attempting to examine himself with a mirror and camera, asks Debbie to confirm whether or not he has haemorrhoids.
“Ha, that came about around a week before we were going to shoot the movie,” Rudd recalls, smiling. “We were laughing about the scene, thinking wouldn’t that be funny but never really thinking we would do it and then the next script I got had that scene in it.”